Remembering a local hero and friend

GRAFTON—Jim Reneau was known and beloved by many in Taylor County. As an educator and administrator with the Taylor County Board of Education, he touched many lives throughout his years in both roles.

For 33 years, Jim helped guide and shape students, first as a science and outdoor education teacher and then as an Assistant Prinicipal of Taylor County Middle School.

Following Graduation from Grafton High School with the Class of 1970, Jim attended West Virginia Wesleyan College, where he met his wife of 42 years, Nancy.  They built their wonderful life in Grafton, WV.

He continued his education with a Master of Administration from West Virginia University.

Jim was active in the community, as a faithful member of the First Christian Church of Grafton, Disciples of Christ, where he served as an elder for many years. 

After Jim retired from the Taylor County Board of Education, he continued to support the Grafton and larger West Virginia community as a member of Grafton Rotary (2007 – 2017) and spent his winters outside working with the Canaan Valley Ski Patrol (2007 – 2017).

In addition to his professional achievements and community involvement, Jim was an avid outdoorsman, adventurer, and woodworker.  He loved being in the woods hunting, in the trout streams fishing, and in the mountains hiking, skiing, camping, canoeing, or biking. 

He also loved to create through cooking, grilling, or working in his woodshop.  Jim was happy when he was engaged in any of his many hobbies, but he was happiest when he was sharing these hobbies with his wife, children, and grandchildren.

Not only was he a devoted husband and father and an active community member, but Jim was a hero.

Some may recall back in February 2007, an autistic teen going missing in Dolly Sods, while hiking with his family. After reading about the missing child, Jim and his son Jeremy made the decision to help with search efforts.

Below is an article published in Friday, October 26, 2007 edition of the Mountain Statesman of the search and rescue.

Local heroes instrumental in finding lost autistic boy

About a mile from the trail where Jacob Allen was last seen, Jeremy Reneau saw a shimmer of blond hair under a Rhododendron bush. Not sure of the boys condition, Reneau approached him expecting the worst.

To his delight, he found Allen responsive and in good condition, dirty and very hungry, but in good condition.

“I think he migrated there and didn’t move,” stated Reneau in an interview Tuesday. “He was surprisingly responsive and was able to acknowledge my presence.”

It was a busy week for Reneau, in the process of moving to Morgantown and securing employment, he still found time along with his dad Jim to make the trek to Dolly Sods on Thursday to help with the search. “We had been reading about it all week, and seen that they still needed volunteers,” he continued, “Thursday was the first day my father and I actually had the time to go down and assist.”

As it is the nature of the residents of West Virginia, the turn out for the search was tremendous. This time, searchers from nearby states gave of their time as well. Reneau tells the story of one man, who works the night shift in Cumberland, MD, who got off work on Thursday morning, traveled down to search, was scheduled to work Thursday night yet planned on coming back down on Friday.

 «It was phenomenal to see the turnout of volunteers,» Reneau stated. I would like to emphasize that there were over 300 volunteers on the scene, and it really shows that good things can happen when people are there for one another.”

They ran a very well organized search, they really knew what they were doing,” Reneau continued. “The area we found him in had already been searched three times, but the probability of him being there was right on the money.”

Arriving at the base of operations about 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, the volunteers were divided into teams and briefed on the operations and procedures. Jim Reneau was chosen to lead the team Jeremy was a part of.

Consisting of members from Taylor, Marion and Harrison Counties, they were given an area to search according to the grid and located Allen around 2:30 p.m. Members of Reneau’s team were Dave Crawford from Bridgeport , Dale Field from Fairmont, Bruce Kidd from Nutter Fort, Emil Lehosit from Clarksburg, Chris Rager from Fairmont, Jim Richards from Darnestown , MD, and of course, Jim and Jeremy Reneau from Grafton.

Inundated by media coverage, Jim and Jeremy Reneau are still reeling from all of the attention. Too busy to let the media coverage interfere with their day-to-day lives, the Reneaus are getting back to their normal routines. Jeremy says that the media has treated them very well with appearances on CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN.

We at the Mountain Statesman are very proud of Jim and Jeremy Renaeu, as is the entirety of Taylor County.”

James “Jim” McLemore Reneau, 67, passed away peacefully on Sunday, July 21, 2019, at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, WV, after a brief illness.

Jim will always be remembered as a man devoted to making positive changes in the community, and he will be missed by his many friends and colleagues in Taylor County and far beyond.


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